Category Archives: street culture

Dealing with street culture in schools: are families, schools and communities able to work together to improve the quality of the daily interactions and communication?


Paper 9th ERNAPE International Conference. Families, Schools and Communities: Learn from the past, review the present, prepare for a future with equity University of Lisboa, Portugal, 4th-6th September, 2013.

Theme G. Bullying: can families, schools and communities work together to raise confident teenagers?

Frederik Smit & Geert Driessen

During the last decade, the quality of Dutch primary and secondary education has been decreasing compared to other countries. The Netherlands is no longer part of the international top ten. Shanghai leads the rankings, while in Europe Finland is the frontrunner. Especially with regard to the level of reading, mathematics and science, the Netherlands is lagging behind. At the request of NTR, the independent Dutch public broadcast service specialized in information, education and culture, the research institute ITS of the Radboud University Nijmegen, the Netherlands and OIG, the education innovation group, conducted an investigation into the quality of Dutch education for the TV show ´The Evening of Education´. The research question of NTR was: What are the views of teachers, parents and pupils on the quality of education?

Main questions
Do teachers interact in a professional manner with parents and pupils? Do teachers provide pupils a safe learning environment that supports the pupils’ social-emotional and moral development? Can teachers help pupils to create their own cultural baggage that every citizen needs in today’s society? Do teachers provide a clear, orderly, and task-oriented atmosphere in the classroom?

Method and sample
For this quantitative study data were collected in a web survey. In this survey 2,072 teachers and 2,372 parents in primary, secondary and vocational education and 740 pupils in secondary and vocational education participated. The study was conducted in the period June – September 2011.

Main results
Pupils are keen to have a good education, personal attention, lots of contact with their teachers and fellow pupils, good guidance by professional role models and a clear structure. They are on the one hand looking for adventure and new experiences (‘born to be wild’) and on the other hand they seek guidance and a secure attachment to others (‘home sweet home’). This is a paradox that needs to be managed. The ideal school for pupils is the ‘balance school’, which provides a balance between classroom training and individual teaching methods; working at a computer and maintaining social contacts; keeping freedom and receiving guidance; having structure and getting flexibility; receiving a collective and an individual assessment; and between doing what is told to be done and having a say in the school’s policy. The ideal lessons convey no boring ready-made messages, but lessons where pupils are challenged in two-way communication, where they are at the same time both the receiver and transmitter regarding topics that are based on their experiences. Such lessons invite participation. Pupils in schools are increasingly expected to actively and independently engage in learning and contribute to the school as a community. Pupils in secondary education are no citizens in the formal political and legal sense of the word. Secondary schools generally have a pupils’ statute to clarify the legal position of pupils within the organization. For instance with regard to the right of getting a good education at school and the obligations pupils have to make this possible. Also with regard to how is being dealt with arriving too late at school and truancy, freedom of speech, freedom of appearance, sexual harassment and disciplinary measures are listed in the pupils’ statute.
Young people sometimes interact in a rough way, not only in the street, but also increasingly in classrooms. Teachers do not seem to get a grip on the street culture that has crept slowly into the classes. It is characterized by an indifferent, brutal, aggressive and unapproachable way, where pupils intimidate not only fellow pupils but also teachers. The language of the street is usually a mixture of Dutch, Moroccan, English and Papiamento. Features include: a strong in-group feeling, with an emphasis on tough masculine behaviour where fighting is seen as cool and where there is a strong hierarchy within the group, with an alpha male as a leader. They just do not tolerate that a teacher makes comments on their behaviour. A reproachful attitude of the teacher usually has the undesirable effect that pupils and the teacher seem to be at ‘war’ with each other. In the street culture, language is also an important means to share and strengthen your position within the group and in relation to other groups or gangs (‘language power’). This often leads to exaggerated language. A frightening aspect of street culture is threatening (‘I’ll kill you’, which often is only a sign of bravado or an honorable way to leave.
Head teacher: ‘Pupils need clarity and boundaries. They do not need limp educators. For them, they have no respect. Young people need to know that if they show undesirable behaviour, they are invited for an interview with their mentor and their parents are always informed’. Teachers often find it difficult how to deal with street culture and how to correct pupils if necessary. More and more teachers are faced with machismo that they have never learned to deal with and cannot handle. Teachers complain about the treatment of aggressive macho pupils with a short fuse and being permanently on edge. This brings added stress and tension in the classroom.
Almost all teachers say they are able to keep order in their class. In contrast, one third of the pupils and parents in secondary and vocational education say that the pupils are in charge in the classroom. Pupils say they lack structure in the classroom.
Half of the teachers say they have less and less time for simply teaching. Half of the teachers believe that because they have to pay a lot of attention to problem children (with learning and behavioral problems) this goes at the expense of the rest of the group. Almost three quarters of the pupils receive an individual educational plan. One third of the teachers do not consider themselves well-trained to help problem pupils who exhibit disruptive behaviour in the classroom. Half of the teachers are not convinced that pupils will perform better through testing.
The school board must develop policies based on the working conditions legislation aimed at preventing risks to the safety and health of personnel. Every school should have a school safety plan as part of the working conditions. The school as an employer is responsible for creating a safe working and living environment.
Both parents and teachers experience barriers in their contacts and communication with each other. Half of the teachers and parents prefer a separate room in the school to talk to each other informally about shared manners and procedures concerning school safety. A majority of teachers and parents think they need a psychologist or a remedial teacher in school to support them with their problems.

In Dutch education it is still not common at all schools that teachers are held accountable for their performance. In order to work professionally as a teacher it is necessary to learn from colleagues and above all to continue to learn by working together to prepare lessons and attend each other’s classes.
Parents and pupils elected in the school council may be involved in providing information about the school culture and thus also contribute to its implementation. The school council may make use of the right of initiative to present its views and proposals regarding the policy of the school. The school prospectus provides an entry point to the school with parents and pupils in dialogue regarding the school culture.
It is not only important that schools, pupils and parents work together to improve the quality of the daily interactions and communication. Also, pupils, community centre, community police, and support institutions can be involved in the formulation of shared manners and establishing procedures concerning school safety.

Smit, F., Driessen, G., Sluiter, R. & Brus, M. (2008). Ouders en innovatief onderwijs. Ouderbetrokkenheid en -participatie op scholen met vormen van ‘nieuw leren. Nijmegen: ITS, Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen.
Smit, F., Driessen, G., Sluiter, R. & Brus, M. (2007). Ouders, scholen en diversiteit. Ouderbetrokkenheid en -participatie op scholen met veel en weinig achterstandsleerlingen. Nijmegen: ITS, Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen.
Smit, F, Wester, M, Craenen, O. & Schut, K. (2011). De visie van leraren, ouders en leerlingen op de kwaliteit van het onderwijs, ITS, Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen en OIG.

dr. Frederik Smit